From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—After being diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, 18-year-old Ben Wolf elects to forgo treatment and keep his illness secret from his family and friends in an attempt to have a "normal" senior year at his small Idaho high school. Free from long-term consequences, he connects with his crush, frustrates his biased U.S. Government teacher, and tries out for football. However, Ben's illness slowly exacts its toll on him, and he begins to realize the consequences of keeping his condition hidden. Crutcher brings his signature blend of sports action and human emotion to this powerful novel. Emotionally spare but deeply touching, the relationship between Ben and his brother will resonate with many readers, while others may find the several strong father figures comforting. Secondary characters add humor and balance, though the government teacher's voice occasionally veers too far toward that of a right-wing pundit. Rudy McCoy, a former priest and child molester, evokes both compassion and revulsion through his confession of guilt and struggle to avoid hurting another child; reflecting Ben's secret-keeping behavior, McCoy serves as a foil for the destructive impact secrets can have. Some discussion of sexual molestation and child abuse is present in the text, but is not graphic or overwhelming in its depiction. Crutcher uses dark humor and self-deprecation effectively to avoid maudlin situations, and teens will appreciate the respectful tone of the work.—Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library
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Just before his senior year, Ben Wolf is diagnosed with a rare, incurable leukemia. At 18, he has the legal right to keep the news to himself until he's ready to reveal it. With only his doctor and therapist in on his secret, Ben sets out to live an entire lifetime in a year: There are insects that pack it all into a day, he reasons. His goals are to join his brother on the football team; learn everything he can; and ask out gorgeous Dallas Suzuki. Crutcher fits far too much into this ambitious novel, which includes subplots about incest, pedophilia, manic depression, and intellectual freedom, as well as a Jesus-like character who appears in visions. And readers may feel distanced from Ben, whose first-person voice and reactions never quite feel authentic. But, as usual, Crutcher writes vivid sports action scenes, and teens' interest will be held by the story's dramatic premise, Ben's unlikely turn as a football hero, love scenes with Dallas (including some mildly explicit sex), and Ben's high-gear pursuit of life's biggest questions. Engberg, Gillian
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